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Chinese Drama

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  Chinese Drama Introduction: It is opinion of modern scholars that drama was not native to china, but was introduced, probably in rather an advanced state, by the Mongols in the thirteenth century. During the one-hundred and sixty-eight years of the Kin and Yuen dynasties the most celebrated plays were written. A famous collection known as the Hundred Plays of the Yuen Dynasty is preserved, and the titles of about six-hundred others are known, as well as the names of eighty-five playwrights. During this period (1200-1368) the style of acting, the subject to be treated, and the general conduct of the theatre were determined. The Chinese stage at the beginning of the twentieth century was practically the same as that of seven hundred years ago. Origin of Chinese Drama The birth year of the Chinese drama is unknown. Dates are variously suggested and disagreed upon and enclose a period of more than twenty-five centuries. The reason for this divergence of opinion is that while one writer considers the pantomimic dances- for religious worship or military jubilation- which were presented to musical accompaniment, a dramatic production, another wants to name the century of the initial stage performance until festival rites unite with speech in dramatic situation and a histrionic denouement.    THEORY OF CHINESE DRAMA The ideal of the Chinese stage was that every play should have a moral. (An article in the penal code of the Empire requires every dramatist to have “a virtuous aim”      Both prose and verse are often used in the same play.    Many of the plays are short, a half-hour or so in length; and the longer ones are divided into acts and scenes.    In order to keep the thread of the action clear, each important character pauses occasionally to announce his name and lineage, and perhaps to rehearse the course of the plot.    A singular feature of the Chinese play is the singing actor. SUBJECTS OF CHINESE DRAMA    The field of the Chinese playwright is broad, as he a choice of historical or contemporary affairs from which to draw his plots.    No class or section is exempt from the laughter of the stage.    One of the most revolting features of Chinese drama is the frequent representation of scenes of violence.     Suicide is a custom honoured in China, and therefore often seen on the stage.    The Chinese stage usually has little scenery, no curtain, flies, or wings.    Those who would enter the profession of acting must undergo severe discipline from an early age, and must submit to the strictest physical training in respect to diet, acrobatic feats, contortions, and walking with bound feet in imitation of high- born women.    There are five classes of actors, each being trained for certain stage types; and each actor is assigned to his own type. The regular companies consist of fifty-six actors, and every member must know from one hundred to two hundred plays. There is no prompter at the performance. Three type of Chinese Plays VUN PAN SHI - the oldest form of Chinese play, it has patriotism and filial devotion for its subjects. Music and action unite to play upon the emotions of the audience. SIN PAN SHI - it presents civil and military conditions. The difference between Vun Pan Shi and Sin Pan Shi is not the libretto, but in the manner of singing certain roles and in the tradition of acting. The dictionary defines libretto as a musical work not intended for stage. VUN MIN SHI - this is also known as the modern play. Colloquial dialects are allowed in the Vun Min Shi instead of Mandarin, the dialect of Peking, which is the accepted speech of the stage as well as of the nation. FAMOUS CHINESE PLAYS Not until the eighteenth century did any knowledge of Chinese drama come to Europe    The Little Orphan of the House of Tchao.    The Story of the Magic Lute(14 th  century)    The Sorrows of Han    The Injustice Suffered (by Tou F by Kuan Han- ch’ing)      The Western Chamber (by Wang Shi-fu)    The Peony Pavilion (by T’ang Hsien -tsu, 16 th  cent.)    The Palace of Long Life (by Hung Sheng, 17 th  cent.) Conclusion:    In general, Chinese drama is comparatively weak in the logical development of plot and in the delineation of character. Great stress, however, is laid upon verbal decoration and  poetical ornament. There are pleasing contrasts between parallel scenes, and parallelism of language, as in the Psalms. In many passages a single word is played with, compounds being made upon the root, so that a speech in praise of a flower or of a royal person becomes an intricate linguistic labyrinth, like an English acrostic or anagram.    And, in Chinese dram no attempt is made at realism; props and scenery are symbolic (for instance, a flag represents an army); the property man is present on stage; characters at times directly address the audience. Often on parts of plays are performed, or scenes are performed in arbitrary sequence. Since the early 19 th  cent. The Beijing opera has been the dominant force in the Chinese theatre. After World War1 a realistic, spoken dram, patterned after Western plays, developed, but after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 the theatre (except on Taiwan) devoted itself to political propaganda until the 1990s. Today’s Chinese Drama      Throughout the Modern Period, selected and modified traditional opera and drams remained a staple of the Chinese theatre. There were also the numerous war plays during the “fighting years”, but theatre activity during this period was much more varied and modern. TWO MAJOR REASONS PROMPTED THIS ACTIVITY:    Demands by the Chinese Communists Party for more drama and    A tremendously increased interest by worker and peasants in amateur dramatic companies which by 1954 numbered about one hundred thousand.
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